I would say that Kitano Takeshi wasn’t my cup of green tea.
But that would be racist.
I was first introduced to him through his ultra-famous (and shamelessly ripped-off) film BATTLE ROYALE. I was pretty young at the time – probably as old as the kids in the actual film, which made me feel pure disgust and ANGER (AKA teenage angst?) toward the premise. That first impression never left me, and his other films and movies (like Takeshi’s Castle or MXC) seemed to reinforce this. I decided that Takeshi was nothing but a violence-monger.
Buuuuuuut now that I’m older and jaded in brand new ways – the violence seems MUCH MORE JUSTIFIED!
*AHEM!* ummm errr ohhahhh eemmm….
ACTUALLY the real turning point for me was a recent episode of Shabekuri 007 – a 2 hour special with Mr. Takeshi as the guest.
What I saw in these two hours surprised me – what I saw was a gentle artist. Take this for example: the hosts of Shabekuri 007 often try to bring to the show people who their guests want to meet (for example a favourite musician or actor, etc). But, special for Takeshi, they did the opposite. During this two-hour special there were 3 extra guests dubbed “the People that Takeshi wants to meet the LEAST.”
Suzuki Nana, also one of my favourite TV personalities, was one of these guests. She said that she came to apologize to Takeshi for always calling him ‘Grandpa.’ Takeshi replied that he wasn’t angry at her for that, since it’s simply part of the character she plays when she appears on television……………………………………………… This is what followed:
HAVE YOU EVER SEEN AN ARTIST MORE GENTLE???
OK, OK. So this is probably the most violent thing I’ve EVER seen on prime time TV. But what struck me was the aftermath: all through the rest of the episode (after Suzuki Nana had departed) Takeshi wondered aloud if she was all right. I recall at least once or twice at the end of the episode Takeshi asking if she was OK.
This admission of regret is not something I usually encounter – especially not on television! But the fact that he felt regret, and then verbalized it for everyone to hear – this is what stuck out to me. And this is only the most dramatic piece of evidence I found during this 2 hour special. It made me think there was more to Takeshi than the spectacle. Violence-monger or envelop-pusher? I suppose I shouldn’t judge myself. But safe to say I saw this man in a whole new light that evening.
And then I went to see his newest film – Ryuzo and his Seven Henchmen (龍三と七人の子分たち) – a film about an elderly retired mafia man who decides to start a new mob. Suffice to say, the move has more heart than violence.
I wouldn’t normally recommend this, but his tweets, though few and far between, are interesting and at times philosophical. Check him out on Twitter: https://twitter.com/beat_takesh1
p.s. Suzuki Nana…. WERE you OK after that?? o_o